Summer’s gone and the rainy season is back, but that’s no excuse to not get outside and explore the wilderness. In fact, the rains have driven away most of the crowds and have provided a new vibrance to the wonder of nature in Lewis County.
Wildflowers and plants have been reinvigorated with color and waterfalls have been recharged — and you'll only see them by stepping out of your car and making the trek into the forest!
We’ve compiled a list of five hikes that are awesome in any weather, from sunshine to rain and even a bit of snow. Two feature waterfalls you can hike behind, two meander through impressive stands of forest, and one takes you to a serene lake in the middle of seemingly nowhere.
Now before you read on, make sure you check the Washington Trails Association’s guide on how to hike safely during the rainy season. It’s full of good pointers on what to do before and during your hike.
With that said, get ready to lace up your hiking boots and check out these five excursions throughout Lewis County that you can do in any weather, with just about anyone! Be sure to follow the included links on each hike listed below for driving directions and nearby lodging; these hikes are even better when paired with other activities in areas nearby!
Here's a map of all the hikes we're about to list below. Keep this handy because you can get directions right inside your Google Maps app!
This hike, which originates from a trailhead off Cispus Road by the Cispus Learning Center, is a good three-mile roundtrip through varying stands of forest and some elevation to two beautiful waterfalls, including one you can hike behind. If you're lucky, you can also find a third waterfall too.
Most families with small children opt just to see Covel Creek Falls, which sits about a mile in on the Covel Creek Trail. Follow the trail through an impressive stand of tall trees and ford the flowing Covel Creek, then continue about a quarter-mile and pause for a minute before the ascent starts.
The trail has switchbacks, so your ascent can be broken into small chunks. Views of small waterfalls that take the rushing waters of Covel Creek downward provide a scenic backdrop to a moment otherwise spent catching one’s breath. Take advantage of these little stops, and take some photos with your phone or camera too!
Once you’ve ascended the switchbacks, you’ll know you’re close when you hear the sound of the falls begin to grow louder. When you come to a fork in the trail, take the path to the right and descend slowly and carefully — the ground could be very wet so watch your footing — to Covel Creek Falls. The trail goes right behind the waterfall, so look out from underneath the rock and watch the water cascade in the foreground with the view opening up to the forest as a backdrop.
Again, most families with small children would be advised to make this the end point of the journey. But for those wanting to see another waterfall, you can choose one of two routes: Continue following the trail as it ascends more switchbacks and is a bit steeper than the portion you just went through, or turn back to the fork you came to and continue onward.
If you choose the steep route, you’ll come to another fork in the trail. Bear left to descend toward Angel Falls, and don’t even think about heading to the right — you’d be in for another four mile climb on a hike we’ll talk about later! If you chose the rocky route, keep on the trail until you hit a T, then bear right toward Angel Falls.
Either route you take, you’ll descend to Angel Falls and see it to your south — a gentle series of cascades rippling in small sections down a series of rocks that jut out further toward the bottom. If it’s not too slippery, you can climb up the first section of rocks and get a closer look; if not, it’s still beautiful and can be well-admired from afar.
There’s even another waterfall tucked away in an area further from the trail, and it’s only best attempted during low stream flow or, during normal flow, in hip waders. From Angel Falls, turn around and continue on the trail until it bends along a creek. From there, you’ll have to follow the creek a few hundred yards until you come to a log jam, then the falls spills over a series of rocks in two different sections. This waterfall is unofficially named Bridal Veil Falls by the Northwest Waterfall Survey.
In all, a trip to these falls is good for some vigorous exercise and a pleasant outdoor experience no matter what the weather holds. Find a place to stay nearby and couple your visit to these waterfalls with some touring of the Morton, Randle and Packwood areas, Lewis County’s gateways to the Cascades!
Packwood Lake, located a few miles outside the community of Packwood itself, is a gem that shines regardless of whether or not the sun is.
If it’s sunny, gaze upon the clarity of the water and the mountain backdrops of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. If it’s rainy and cloudy, the stillness and peacefulness of the area provides a beautiful calm as you walk along the lakeside and hear the water lapping the shores.
You’ll start your hike from the trailhead of the Packwood Lake Trail, which begins where Snyder Road / Forest Road 1260 ends. From there, you have two choices: the trail itself, which tucks itself neatly under a canopy of trees and provides shelter from the rain in spots; or the road below, which also brings all-terrain vehicles (yep, they’re allowed here!) and equestrians along on the trip too.
We’d recommend the narrower trail through the forest to the lake, then the wider trail on the way back.
For about four miles, the trail winds and meanders through old-growth forest, passing some small creeks and entering the Goat Rocks Wilderness. But the views are occluded until you reach the lake — watch for it around a big curve in the trail, because you’ll see its bright waters through a grove of trees to your right.
Once you get down to the lake, there are some beautiful and historic sights to see. If you are lucky enough to make it down there on a day with no wind, the lake remains still while reflecting a nearly picture-perfect mirror image of the mountains and wilderness beyond. Agnes Island, in the middle of the lake and accessible only by boat, is the centerpiece of many a photo of the lake.
Continue a short way on the trail and you’ll see the historic Packwood Lake Guard Cabin, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places, to your left shortly before crossing a bridge. You can stop your hike here if you wish, or follow the trail a bit further to explore along the lakeshore. Even better, if you have a wilderness camping permit and you brought a tent, camp out along the shoreline for a truly awesome nature experience.
Want to bring the family dog? You bet you can. Just put Fido on a leash and you’re good to go.
Allow a good three hours for this hike, simply for the fact you’ll want to take in the sights at the lake for a bit. With its proximity to Packwood itself, it’s never a bad idea to stay overnight at one of many lodges or vacation rentals there and continue to explore our mountain country.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required for this hike. Follow this link to purchase one.
PLEASE NOTE: In the wintertime, Forest Road 1260 can be covered in snow and inaccessible. Please check with the U.S. Forest Service's station in Randle for updated conditions.
Let’s head over to the west side of Interstate 5 now, on a highway better known for its connection to the coast. Just about 20 miles west of Chehalis adjoining State Route 6 in Dryad, an unsigned stand of timber north of the Chehalis River has some of the prettiest and family-friendliest hiking trails in Lewis County. And best of all, camping and picnicking is available just across the river.
The best way to find these trails is to take Exit 77, drive for about 20 minutes along State Route 6 and you’ll see a sign directing you to turn on Mays Bridge Road to get to Rainbow Falls State Park. Don’t take that turn, though — keep going straight on SR 6 until you come to an area adjoining the roadway to the right that provides an overlook to the Chehalis River and the small but fast-flowing Rainbow Falls. Feel free to pull out there but remain well off to the side of the road.
To your left, you’ll see a picnic shelter and a fence. That’s where you’ll want to go. Once you’re there, look for the sign for the Oxalis Loop and follow it — you’ve arrived to a small trail system totaling about 3 miles on a forested hillside.
This hike isn’t like the rest on this list simply because it’s not a hike to a destination, but rather just a simple walk that you can make as short or as long as you like.
Several trails on this hillside are part of Rainbow Falls State Park, although they’re in essence separated from the rest of the park by the Chehalis River. This creates an entirely different ambience from the other portion of the park, as there are many fewer people on these trails and the nature in this area is a bit more wild.
Start by heading up the Oxalis Loop which takes you uphill, then try the Deer Trail, which will bring you back down. Other side trails provide nice little jaunts through sections of beautiful forest! Explore old-growth forest, blooming flowers, and a quiet forested setting with a creek running through.
When you’re done, hop back in your car and follow the signs back to the other portion of Rainbow Falls State Park, where camping, fishing and picnicking are all offered. Bonus: bring bikes and head out on the Willapa Hills Trail just about 1/2 mile from the park entrance, and check out Washington's newest rail-to-trail link!
For vehicles parked on State Parks property, you'll need to display a valid and current Discover Pass. Follow this link for more information.
You’ll want to check with the Forest Service ahead of time to see if this one is open. If it is, take the opportunity ASAP to go explore the Goat Creek Trail to Cathedral Falls, another waterfall you can hike behind!
Head to Glenoma and follow the signs to Taidnapam Park, but continue past the park across the one-lane bridge until you come to a T in the road. Bear right, go past the gate if it’s open, then follow a narrow road to your left that points you to the Goat Creek Trail. Passenger cars can make this trek, but if you have a higher-profile vehicle you’ll have an easier go of it.
The earlier you can start your journey, the better. There’s limited parking at the trailhead, but if you’re able to find a spot, the hiking excursion that awaits is a real treat.
The trail is built well and is wide enough in most spots to fit two people side by side. Plus, you’ll come to the waterfall just a little over a mile in.
On the way there, you’ll encounter a few small stream crossings that aren’t too deep. Waterproof hiking boots surely help, but if you can skip your way across a few rocks in any other types of shoes you’ll be alright.
The forest covers most of the trail, making it an ideal option for a rainy day hike. Some spots open up allowing for a grand view of the Cowlitz River Valley and Gifford Pinchot National Forest below. Take some time to stop and enjoy those views, and again have a camera handy to get some nice photos.
Just like Covel Creek Falls, the waterfall is heard before it’s seen, and you’ll be there in no time. The trail ducks under a large rock face and bends to the left, with the falls itself spilling over an impressive crag. You’ll be well underneath the rock so you won’t have to worry about getting wet unless the wind is blowing inward.
If you’re up to it, you can head down below to where the falls hits a splash pool and marvel at the enormity of the waterfall from below. It’s the best perspective to catch this 248-foot wonder, and if your camera has a wide-angle lens, that’s the best photo opportunity.
Clamber back up and head further along the trail if you wish. If you’re up for a bigger hike, you can continue along the trail and hit points such as Vanson Lake and Vanson Peak. Otherwise, any spot ahead of the falls is a decent turnaround spot.
This hike is especially family-friendly with no major elevation gain, so the little ones in the family are sure to have just as great a time as you are!
Conveniently located mere blocks from downtown Centralia’s shopping, hotels and eateries, Seminary Hill Natural Area is a forested jewel that provides the perfect outdoor escape to recharge one’s soul.
Just a few blocks east of downtown on Locust Street and Barner Drive, the main trailhead for Seminary Hill is located just beyond a small gate that is nearly always open. You’ll see a new picnic shelter that was just built by the Friends of Seminary Hill this year, and the trail is just across the parking lot from it.
Runners and casual walkers alike love Seminary Hill for its terrain, which includes a bit of an incline along the forested hillside to a plateau above, where several trails branch off toward different exits off the hill at varying points.
Our favorite excursion on the hill is one totaling about two miles in length: first you climb the “staircase” inside the forest then work your way to the right and up, eventually coming to your first trail intersection. Keep on the main trail, known as the Rufus Kiser Trail, and continue on through sections of forest that include ferns, tall timber and moss galore.
In the autumn, the Kiser Trail is a prime spot in Centralia for enjoying fall colors. A variety of trees shower the trail and adjacent land below with leaves that are different in size, color and vibrance, bringing an amazing display in front of your eyes as your feet crunch along on the trail.
The Kiser Trail eventually links up with another trail that takes you on the western side of Seminary Hill. But if you continue, you’ll make your way to Staebler Point, which gives a good view of the northern part of Centralia and the Skookumchuck River area in the distance.
Much like Rainbow Falls State Park’s trails, there isn’t a specific destination in mind here. Rather, it’s a spot to take a breather, enjoy nature and enjoy the journey along the way.
Best of all, it’s free for anyone to enjoy and open during daylight hours, and no passes are required.